Iranian Filmmaker Beats the Odds, Premieres ‘Sacred Fig’ at Cannes

Dissident Iranian director attends film premiere after harrowing flight from authorities.

In a remarkable act of perseverance over oppression, acclaimed Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof has made a clandestine escape from his homeland to attend the Cannes Film Festival premiere of his latest work, ‘The Seed of the Sacred Fig.‘ His defiant journey comes just weeks after receiving an 8-year prison sentence from Iranian authorities for making the very film set to debut on the prestigious Croisette stage.

Rasoulof, an outspoken critic of Iran’s government, decided to flee the country illegally after escalating pressures and threats surrounding ‘Sacred Fig.’ Iranian officials not only attempted to force him to withdraw the film from Cannes but also harassed the producers and actors involved. Undeterred, the director undertook an “exhausting and extremely dangerous” journey on foot to slip across Iran’s borders.

“We are particularly touched to welcome [Rasoulof] here as a filmmaker. Our joy will be that of all festival-goers and all freedom-loving Iranians,” said Cannes Director Thierry Fremaux. “We reaffirm our support for all artists who suffer violence and reprisals in expressing their art.”

The Seed of the Sacred Fig

‘The Seed of the Sacred Fig,’ in competition for the Palme d’Or, centers on an Iranian judge grappling with paranoia and distrust amid nationwide protests. Its themes challenging authoritarianism and exploring domestic tensions have made it a target of the censors. None of Rasoulof’s films have ever been permitted screening in Iran due to their condemnation of the regime.

This is far from the first time Rasoulof has clashed with Iranian authorities over his work. In 2011, his film ‘Goodbye’ led to a 6-year prison sentence and 20-year filmmaking ban on charges of propaganda, though it was later suspended. His 2017 feature ‘A Man of Integrity’ resulted in his passport being confiscated upon return from Telluride.

Now having found asylum in Germany, Rasoulof’s harrowing path to Cannes underscores global artists’ struggle for freedom of expression. “The global film community must provide strong support to makers of these films,” he affirmed. His mere presence on the Croisette delivering blistering social commentary is an act of resistance and triumph over censorship.

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